DENVER — Tay Anderson, a Denver school board member and rising Democratic Party star, is under investigation after being accused by a parent of sexually assaulting more than 60 students in a case that has rocked Colorado’s largest school system.
The 22-year-old Anderson, who was just 21 when he was elected to the board in 2019, adamantly denied the claims and said that he would step back from his board duties to avoid becoming a “distraction” until the probe is finished.
“These false claims have put my family and I in harm’s way and now, as a father and son, I must protect those I love first, therefore I will be stepping back from everyday board functions until the completion of the independent investigation,” Mr. Anderson said in a statement.
Meanwhile, calls for his resignation are mounting.
The Colorado High School Democrats of America called for him to step down “immediately,” while conservative KNUS-AM talk-show host Jimmy Sengenberger said he should “resign now.”
“For once, I (mostly) agree with Jimmy Sengenberger,” said Democratic activist Trish Zornio in a Wednesday op-ed on Colorado Newsline.
“With multiple ongoing sexual assault investigations, and extensive impact to Denver Public Schools, it’s time for Colorado Democrats to call out their 2020 Rising Star Award winner: School Board Secretary and Member-at-Large Tay Anderson should resign immediately,” she said.
Mr. Anderson was already under investigation over a sexual assault accusation made in March by Black Lives Matter 5280 when a Denver parent dropped a bombshell claim of attacks on multiple students in her May 28 testimony before the Colorado House Judiciary Committee.
Mary-Katherine Brooks Fleming, who has three children in Denver Public Schools, said that 62 students told her about assaults perpetrated by a “sexual predator currently targeting DPS students,” saying he was “in a position of trust.”
All but one of the 62 students were illegal immigrants, some protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“Individuals were coming to my home asking for medical attention. One was as young as 14 and needed stitches. All in all, 61 high school students and one recent graduate would turn to me for help,” Ms. Fleming said.
“Sixty-two victims — as young as 14! Sixty-one were undocumented, or Dreamers, and all were so afraid of this one man,” she said.
Ms. Fleming said they “listed offenses from unwanted touching, which is a third-degree felony in this state, to violent acts of rape.”
The board confirmed Friday that Mr. Anderson was the accused person and urged anyone with information to contact the Investigations Law Group, which is conducting the probe.
“The board was made aware of testimony at the Colorado Capitol this week and was later informed that the accusations were against Director Tay Anderson,” the board said in a statement on ChalkBeat. “The Denver police are also aware of these accusations.”
Christopher Decker, Mr. Anderson’s attorney, said his client “categorically denies the most recent allegations which have been made against him.”
“To date, not a single allegation against Director Anderson has provided any time, place, individual, or details to which he can even respond,” the lawyer said in a statement to Denver TV station KCNC, CBS-4.
“When and if this occurs, he will respond with specifics and corroborating evidence,” he added.
He said Mr. Anderson “specifically denies any unlawful touching or assaults during his brief time as a teacher and since his election to the DPS Board.”
“These acts never happened,” Mr. Decker said. “Not a single child, parent, therapist, teacher, police officer, doctor, or individual has come forth to substantiate these incredible assertions.”
Mr. Anderson had previously come under scrutiny following accusations made by Black Lives Matter 5280 and Never Again Colorado, a gun control group that he headed in 2018.
In a March 26 post on Facebook, Black Lives Matter 5280 said that a woman had come to them with an accusation of sexual assault against Mr. Anderson, and asked him to apologize publicly and “seek help from a licensed professional.”
“Until Dir. Anderson has accounted for himself in these ways, he will not be welcome to share space with BLM5280 physically or on any of our platforms,” said the group’s statement, which did not disclose the woman’s name.
Mr. Anderson, a leader of last year’s George Floyd protests in Denver, responded in March that the BLM claims were “gut-wrenching because I have not sexually assaulted anyone. I am not aware of any past partners who have considered anything I’ve done sexual assault.”
A few days later, six female board members of Never Again Colorado said that Mr. Anderson “maintained a work environment that made us feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”
“Tay pursued female board members romantically/sexually on behalf of a friend and of himself,” the group said in a statement to Westword. “Doing so abused many power imbalances including Tay having professional power over another, Tay being an adult and the other underage (as young as 15), and Tay being sober and the other inebriated. He maintained an atmosphere where this kind of behavior was normalized.”
Mr. Anderson responded by apologizing and saying he never intended for “anyone to feel unsafe or uncomfortable.”
The school board, which responded by authorizing an investigation April 6, said Sunday that board members “agree with his decision to step back from routine board functions and events until the conclusion of the investigation.”
“Director Anderson will continue to vote on necessary matters before the Board including the hiring of a new superintendent,” said the board statement.
Denver Public Schools has 92,000 students, the most of any public school district in Colorado.